As a parent, you know how much you care for your child’s well-being. But what if their constant phone usage is taking a toll on their mental health? Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that your child may be addicted to their phone and find ways to help them before it’s too late.
Young people’s social lives would be very different without cell phones. In reality, studies have found that nearly all teenagers (95%) have easy access to a smartphone. Teens can’t put down their phones, either to keep up with friends on Snapchat and group chatting or because they have to utilize apps like calculators and webpages about current events for the school. But what about when the casual use of phones becomes more serious?
Find out how you can tell whether your kid has a problem with phone addiction, how long they’ve been using their phones, and the impact it’s having on their mental health.
What is Phone Addiction?
Several psychological problems have been linked to smartphone addiction, which can also be understood as a dread of being cut off from the Internet or cellular service. The correlation between smartphone addiction and mental health issues, including sadness, anxiety, and isolation, is well-documented, but solving the issue has been a chicken-and-egg conundrum until lately.
Is it more likely that persons with these conditions will get dependent on their phones, or do phones actually cause them? Whatever the case may be, extensive studies show that setting reasonable screen time limits for your adolescent is crucial for preventing or alleviating these symptoms. And to assist them in overcoming any emotional difficulties they may have.
Mental Health and Smartphone Usage
Researchers from the University of Arizona did a study with teens between the ages of 18 and 20 to see if there is a link between using smartphones a lot and having bad mental health. Researchers have deemed this cohort, dubbed “older teenagers,” significant since they are among the first generations to have grown up with widespread access to sophisticated electronic devices. In 2007, Apple unveiled the world’s first iPhone.
The study’s investigators were particularly interested in participants’ psychological dependence on the device rather than their overall frequency of use. Individuals were asked things like, “Do you have anxiety when you are unable to use your smartphone?” and were also given questions to answer to gauge feelings of isolation and melancholy on a four-point scale. As a result, experts have concluded that excessive dependence on mobile devices is a reliable indicator of future depression.
Matthew Lapierre, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona, was quoted as saying, “The main takeaway is that smartphone dependency directly predicts later depressive symptoms,” in a press release for the study. “There’s a problem where individuals are entirely too reliant on the technology, to the point that they feel nervous if they don’t have it accessible, and they’re utilizing it to the cost of their day-to-day lives,” says one expert.
More and more evidence points to the dangers of adolescent device dependency. It’s not always easy for parents to tell if their kid is using the phone occasionally or if they have developed a psychological dependence on it. Monique Hicks, a CAPSW and educational consultant, advises parents to look out for telltale signals that their child’s phone use has progressed beyond healthy boundaries.
Examples of warning indicators that an adolescent is too dependent on their phone are:
- They always stay home with their mobile device running and in hand.
- Changes in behavior.
- Emotional dysregulation.
- Sensational outbursts when disconnected from their gadget.
- The inability to sit still, concentrate or control their emotions while they are away from their phone at school.
- More problems arise in the community.
- Problems falling asleep.
- They’re becoming increasingly dependent on their phones.
- Multitasking uses several different devices or software at once (social networking, texting, gaming, etc.).
What Parents Can Do to Aid Their Children
While it may be tempting to take away access to technology, there may be benefits to tracking and adjusting usage instead. Both the Google/Android and Apple/iPhone systems provide features that can assist families to limit excessive phone use by individual members. Screen Time for iPhone and Google’s Digital Wellbeing provides real-time data on device use and methods for cutting back on excessive smartphone time. Similarly, parents can use Android’s Family Link to keep tabs on their children’s phone and app use, limit their children’s screen time, and even lock their children’s devices.
Despite actual limits, it’s also crucial to set a positive example with regard to phone use. Parents should set a good example by limiting their screen usage and encouraging their children to do the same. It’s inevitable that our kids will mimic our behavior if we’re always glued to our phones.
Helping children develop healthy relationships outside of the digital realm requires both times spent together and time spent apart from screens. A healthy lifestyle includes various factors, including encouraging creative expression, physical activity, in-person socialization, and hands-on activities.
Online activities such as social media, gaming, and app development are geared toward constant use. Also, many adolescents’ brains aren’t developed enough to properly self-regulate their use without parental supervision. Caregivers must step in to assist with the development of this vital ability.
Talk to your child’s doctor or mental health professional for advice on how to help them develop healthy coping mechanisms if you are concerned about possible phone addiction, depression, or anxiety in your child.
Meaningful articles you might like: 13 Simple Ways To Add Fun To Your Backyard, Educate and Encourage Your Child to Reduce Screen Time, 6 Solutions To Your Kids and Teens Screen Time Woes